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Do portable solar power chargers actually work?

Recently, many smartphone accessory manufacturers have branched out towards a new range of portable solar chargers. When I first heard about them, I was immediately suspicious.


Can a portable charger with a tiny solar panel really be enough to charge up your smartphone on the go?


I wanted to find the real answer to this question, so I researched the topic further. If a portable solar power charger could actually work as well as they are made out to, such a product could be a life saver.


How Do Portable Solar Power Chargers Work?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the technology behind the most popular portable solar power chargers.


There are two main designs that are commonly used. The first design is like a fold-up belt of solar panels. An example has been provided below.


The second design is shaped similarly to a traditional portable charger, but there is a solar panel built on top. Here is a look at the second design.


Both designs harness energy from the sun and convert it into electricity, but the way electricity is used differs on both designs.


The first design essentially works as a portable charging outlet. There aren’t any batteries built in, so you’ll need to lay it out in the sunshine and plug in devices to charge them up right there and then.


USB connections allow you to charge your smartphone, tablet, portable charger, or anything else capable of charging via USB.


The power output is understandably relative to the sunlight the product gets, but under direct sunlight these chargers can often output 2.4Amps per port or 4.8Amps on a single device.


You can learn more about amps and charging here, but typically the output for the charger you plug into the mains is 1-2Amps.


The second product works a little differently. It’s a portable battery that charges up when in direct sunlight. This means it’s possible to store up juice on sunny days and have it ready for when your smartphone or other devices need charging up.


Usually, there are different outputs slots on these chargers that are used for different devices. Because power is stored first and then delivered via the powerbank to your device, the output will remain consistent at a designated amp.


This is in contrary to the first design which can go ‘up to’ certain outputs depending on the available sunlight.


“A dusting of snow has little impact on solar panels.” explained the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy in one of their articles. Solar panels can work as usual on snowy days as long as there are no snow coatings on solar panels. Snow accumulations can result in a loss of conversion efficiency of over 5% or even lead to the hot spot effect, a common issue occurring when solar panels are shaded.


For areas where it snows a lot, it is recommended to hook up the solar panels with a larger inclination angle. So that the snow can slide off to a certain extent, thus reducing the effect on solar panels’ efficiency. More than a larger inclination, you can also mount the solar panels higher to keep a safe distance from the deep snow on the ground.

Tina Yu

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